An accountancy practice needs to always focus on finding new clients to ensure future viability. So how do you win new clients?
This article outlines tips on how to do just that.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, there are some general steps you can take to put your practice in an optimal position to attract more business.
This article covers the following top tips:
- Develop your visible expertise
- Manage your digital footprint
- Consider your website as your showcase
- Use technology as your friend
- Develop a niche
- Have a clear pricing strategy
- Timing is crucial
- Don’t forget the importance of word of mouth
- Final thoughts: Continue to nurture the relationship with new clients
Develop your visible expertise
One key component of a successful accountancy practice is having visible expertise. That is being known to have certain knowledge, skills and experience.
Someone who has thought a lot about this is Mary Cloonan.
She worked for many years in marketing departments of large accountancy practices. Then in 2015, she used that experience to set up her own business, Marketing Clever, which advises accountancy practices on how to market themselves.
She says: “Firstly, visible expertise is a way to differentiate yourself from your competition.
“In a world where businesses are constantly vying for attention, being known as an expert in your field sets yourself apart.
“Secondly, it’s a way to build trust with your clients and potential clients. When you share your ideas and knowledge with the world, you are demonstrating that you are confident in what you do.
“And, it’s a way to stay ahead of the curve.
“By sharing your ideas and thoughts on a given topic, you are positioning yourself as an authority – someone who is up to date on the latest trends and changes.
“This allows you to stay one step ahead of competitors and be the go-to firm when clients are seeking an expert.”
She explains that you need to have a plan for how you are going to share your ideas with the world, and what platforms you are going to use.
Mary says: “If your professional services marketing strategy includes writing articles or blog posts, ensure that you only share the most up-to-date information with your audience.
“On the other hand, if you’re using a different platform to share your visible expertise (such as speaking at conferences or being interviewed on podcasts), ensure that you are prepared with the latest statistics and information.
“The last thing you want is to be caught off guard when someone asks you a question about your area of expertise.”
Manage your digital footprint
As the world continues to become more digital, how to illustrate that expertise is also changing.
Mary points out that expertise that used to be gained through years of experience in a field is now more readily available than ever before.
She says: “The internet has meant that information on any given topic is only a few clicks away, and with that comes the challenge for businesses to maintain their competitive edge.”
Mary advises you to approach your digital footprint on a step-by-step basis.
Firstly, you need to know where you’re at today in terms of your reach in the online space.
She says: “One way to gauge how well your digital marketing is working is to do a search for your name and firm after clearing your history cache.
“If you’re not happy with the results, then it’s time to make some changes.
“You may need to focus on SEO [search engine optimisation], create more content, or invest in paid advertising. Whatever the case may be, it’s crucial to identify and address any weaknesses that you may have.
“In addition, when it comes to digital marketing for accounting firms, one of the most important things you can do is to post regularly.
“This includes sharing fresh content, tagging people and companies in your posts, and using relevant hashtags. If you can keep your social media accounts active and engaging, you’ll be more likely to attract potential clients.
“So, make sure you put in the effort to post regularly and use engaging content.”
Mary also has some simple practical tips on how to improve your digital footprint.
She says: “For instance, it is important to make sure your Google Business Profile [formerly Google My Business] listing is up to date.
“This includes ensuring that your business hours are correct and that you are regularly posting fresh content.
“Google will often rank businesses higher in search results if they have a complete and up-to-date Google Business Profile listing.
“In addition, using Google Alerts can be a good way to keep track of what’s happening in your industry.
“You can set up alerts for specific keywords, and Google will send you an email notification whenever there is new content about these keywords.
“By doing this, you can stay up to date on the latest news and trends in your industry or regarding specific clients.”
Consider your website as your showcase
Attention must also be paid to your website, as it’s often the first point of connection for a client. And if the website looks outdated, it may also give the impression that your practice is not at the cutting edge.
So, design and look are very important.
Other pointers for your website are to include a link to a staff page. “People like working with people they know, so it’s important to include a photo of your team on your website.
“This helps build trust and credibility with potential clients,” says Mary.
Also, get the best out of Google Analytics. She says: “Google Analytics is a free tool that gives you insights into how people are using your website. It can be used to track website visits, page views, and conversions.
“This data can be used to help you improve your website’s performance and increase conversions.
“For example, if you notice that most of your visitors come from a particular country, you may want to focus on targeting that market with your marketing efforts.
“To get the most out of Google Analytics, you need to set up conversion tracking. This will allow you to track how many website visitors are converting into leads or customers.
“If you’re not sure how to use Google Analytics, plenty of online tutorials and guides are available.”
Use technology as your friend
Modern business owners are highly tech-savvy and they expect the same from their accountant. So, it is important that your practice is also using technology to its best potential.
Using the right accounting software can offer clients a value-added service.
Also, ensuring that your client has cloud access to their financials means they can make decisions while on the move.
In addition, automating processes within your practice can free up time, meaning you can spend more time offering clients higher-end advisory services.
Develop a niche
It’s not easy being all things to all people, especially for a smaller accountancy practice. It’s preferable to carve a niche and be clear on what your focus is.
It’s important to understand the industry sector that your practice is aiming to target and then build your offerings around this.
You need to understand the challenges your sector faces and what solutions you can offer.
In order to do this, continually build knowledge in this field, such as by reading industry publications, attending relevant conferences and networking.
Have a clear pricing strategy
It’s advisable to have a clear pricing strategy, with a menu of services you provide that is laid out in simple language.
Fixed fees are increasingly the norm, with payment often by standing order or direct debit.
This helps to manage cash flow for both your practice and your client.
Timing is also crucial
Certain times of the year are very busy for accountants, with October and November in particular being a hectic time for many accountants, as they file their clients’ tax returns.
However, this is also a time when many businesses are looking for a new accountant and so practices must be ready to seize the opportunity to take on new business.
You should do some groundwork in the quieter summer months leading up to this time, by perhaps reaching out to potential new clients in your specialised sector.
Jane Downes runs a Galway-based recruiting firm for accountants, Jane Downes Finance Talent. She has an understanding of how the market works and points out that businesses mainly look for accountants when they have problems.
She says: “Businesses are always at their most ready to buy when they have a problem.
“Identify your target market and find out where the roadblocks are. You might as easily find this out over a casual chat in a coffee shop, as a networking event.
“So, be open to conversations and be ready to follow up, if you feel there is an opportunity there.”
Don’t forget the importance of word of mouth
While the world is increasingly digital, the Irish are a nation of networkers known for the gift of the gab and who in general consider connecting with people to be important.
Additionally, the golf course and the sidelines of the football field can also still hold sway.
Jane says practices should prioritise hiring accountants who are seen to be active in the community, as building connections is vital for business development.
Mary agrees: “In the professional services industry, it’s all about relationships.
“The better you know your clients, and vice versa, the more likely they will give you a referral. So, take some time to get personal with your clients.
“Learn about their business, their goals and their challenges.
“The more you know about them, the better you’ll be able to help them. And the more likely they will give you a referral down the line.”
Final thoughts: Continue to nurture the relationship with new clients
Businesses are often reluctant to change accountants and can take time to make the move. However, relationships with clients have the potential to last many years, so each client won can be a lucrative boost to your business.
Having won your new clients, hang on to them, and don’t take them for granted.
Be proactive and maintain consistent and regular contact with your clients in order to ensure a long-lasting successful business relationship.
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